Cadus Corp: Classic Value Trap or Worth a Second Look?

Sep.29.09 | About: Cadus Corp. (KDUS)

Cadus Corporation (OTCQB:KDUS) is an interesting play, but not without hairs on it.

First, the good news: It’s trading at a discount to net cash with Carl Icahn disclosing an activist holding in 2002, and Moab Capital Partners disclosing an activist holding more recently. At its $1.51 close yesterday, the company has a market capitalization of $19.9M.

The valuation is straight-forward. We estimate the net cash value to be around $20.6M or $1.57 per share and the liquidation value to be around $23.2M or $1.77 per share. The liquidation value excludes the potential value of federal and New York State and City net operating loss carry-forwards. It’s not a huge upside but it’s reasonably certain, and we think that’s a good thing in this market.

The problem with the position is the catalyst. It’s a relatively tiny position for Icahn, so he’s got no real incentive to do anything with it. He’s been in the position since 2002, so he’s clearly in no hurry. That said, he’s not ignoring the position. He last updated his 13D filing in March this year, disclosing an increased 40% stake. He’s also got Moab Capital Partners to contend with. Moab holds 9.8% of the stock and says that it:

has had good interaction with the CEO of Cadus, David Blitz, and feels comfortable that he will structure a transaction with an operating business that will generate significant long-term value for Cadus holders.

KDUS could end up being a classic value trap, but we think it’s worth a look at a discount to net cash, and two interested shareholders.

About KDUS

From the most recent 10Q:

The Company was incorporated in 1992 and until July 30, 1999, devoted substantially all of its resources to the development and application of novel yeast-based and other drug discovery technologies. On July 30, 1999, the Company sold its drug discovery assets and ceased its internal drug discovery operations and research efforts for collaborative partners.

At June 30, 2009, the Company had an accumulated deficit of approximately $34.9 million. The Company’s losses have resulted principally from costs incurred in connection with its research and development activities and from general and administrative costs associated with the Company’s operations. These costs have exceeded the Company’s revenues and interest income. As a result of the sale of its drug discovery assets and the cessation of its internal drug discovery operations and research efforts for collaborative partners, the Company ceased to have research funding revenues and substantially reduced its operating expenses. The Company expects to generate revenues in the future only if it is able to license its technologies.

The value proposition

KDUS is a relatively simple value proposition. It’s $21M of cash, and $3.1M in Bank of America Columbia Strategic Cash Portfolio (more on this below) against total liabilities of around $0.03M (that’s ~$27,000). We’ve set out the valuation below in the usual manner (the “Book Value” column shows the assets as they are carried in the financial statements, and the “Liquidating Value” column shows our estimate of the value of the assets in a liquidation):

KDUS Summary

Bank of America Columbia Strategic Cash Portfolio

We are not treating the Bank of America Columbia Strategic Cash Portfolio as cash. The asset has some issues, best described by this passage from the 10Q:

On December 10, 2007, the Fund notified the Company that conditions in the short-term credit markets had created a broad based perception of risk in non subprime asset-backed securities causing illiquidity across the market which led to extreme pricing pressure in those securities. The Fund also notified the Company that it is primarily invested in such securities, that it will begin an orderly liquidation of such securities, that unitholders would no longer be able to redeem their units in the Fund and that the Fund would redeem its units as it liquidated its investments. The Fund also began to value its securities based on market value rather than amortized value for purposes of determining net asset value per unit. The Fund has continued to pay interest monthly. The Company reclassified its investment in the Fund from cash equivalents to short-term investments. Through December 31, 2008, the Fund redeemed 19,445,459 units held by the Company for $18,787,142, which redemption was $658,317 in the aggregate less than the cost of such units. From January 1, 2009 to June 30, 2009, the Fund has redeemed an additional 2,314,849 units in the Fund for $1,934,798 which redemption was $380,051 in the aggregate less than the original $2,314,849 cost of such units. At June 30, 2009, the Company still owned 3,793,032 units in the Fund which was recorded on the balance sheet at $3,135,321. Such 3,793,032 units had a net asset value of $3,306,385 at June 30, 2009. The Fund has advised the Company that the balance or most of the balance, of the Company’s investment in the Fund will be redeemed by December 31, 2009. However, there can be no assurance as to when the redemption will take place or as to the net asset value at which the Company’s investment in the Fund will be redeemed.

We’ve applied a 20% discount to the Strategic Cash Portfolio, which is an additional discount to that applied by KDUS. This may be too conservative, but that is the only way that we feel comfortable.

The catalyst

Carl Icahn filed an amended 13D notice on March 12 this year, indicating an increased 40% holding in KDUS. Moab Capital Partners also holds around 9.8% of KDUS. Said Moab of its KDUS position in the August 16, 2007 13D:

The Reporting Persons have purchased the Shares in open market transactions because in their opinion, the market has not given full appreciation to Cadus’ cash balance, net operating loss carry-forwards and future prospects. Based on publically available information, as of 8/16/07, the company currently holds cash, equivalents and investments in marketable securities of $25.4 million and has significant federal and New York State and City net operating loss carry-forwards. The current market capitalization stands at $23.1 million, a 9% discount to the cash and investments on Cadus’ balance sheet. Moab feels the loss carry-forwards should also be ascribed market value. Cadus is cash flow positive and the share count has not increased in over five years. Moab has had good interaction with the CEO of Cadus, David Blitz, and feels comfortable that he will structure a transaction with an operating business that will generate significant long-term value for Cadus holders.

Moab’s purchase prices – between $1.86 and $1.76 – are higher than the current trading price of KDUS.

Despite these promising sentiments, a catalyst in KDUS is probably not imminent. We believe the position will require some patience for the following reasons:

  • First, KDUS is controlled by Icahn and represents a very small part of his empire. He’s got no real immediate impetus to unlock the value. The play is probably Icahn selling his stake to another investor looking for a shell, or Icahn vending into KDUS some other business. You’d have to be brave / insane / a little of both to buy from Icahn usually, and doubly so in this instance given that he’s got no reason to sell.
  • Second, it’s illiquid. Average volume is close to nada: 900 shares were traded on Friday and 6,500 were traded on Thursday. Even a small retail investor could make the entire market for a day or so.
  • Finally, KDUS is a fairly well known position in the industry. It’s viewed as a stock that has been stagnant for years and unlikely to go anywhere because Icahn is too rich to care. We’ve heard that investing in KDUS is a “right of passage for would-be shell buyers.” Consider yourself warned.

Conclusion

Despite the foregoing misgivings, we’re reasonably comfortable with a position in KDUS for several reasons:

  1. The value. We’re primarily attracted to KDUS’s cash and liquidation values. While it’s not a huge upside from here, it’s downside is very limited. With slightly higher interest rates, KDUS will also likely return to cash flow positive territory.
  2. While Icahn is obviously not seeking an immediate resolution of the position, he controls an asset with a value not yet fully recognised by the market. If a worthwhile transaction materializes like Marley’s ghost before Scrooge’s eyes, we’re prepared to bet that Scrooge will buy us the biggest turkey in the poulterer’s shop. But it won’t happen this Christmas.

KDUS won’t ever be a 10 bagger, or even a double, but it’s got 20 – 30% in it. In an overheated market, that’s good enough for us. For these reasons, we’re adding it to the Greenbackd Portfolio.